By: Robin Gagnon
“Would Isabella Oswald please step forward?” a hooded figure announced, as a bunch of sixteen-year-olds stood in a group with the entire village watching from the stands. “Please take your place above the ceremonial circle.”
I watched, as Isabella climbed up the worn cement stairs to the top, where the altar stood just above a golden pentagram on the floor. Five hooded figures, all of them village elders, stood at each point and prepared for the first summoning ritual.
The entire village had shown up to see this moment. Isabella’s family was known for getting legendary familiars and everyone was excited to see just what would be summoned. I really wished that I didn’t have to share the same birthday month as her. Knowing my family’s luck with familiars, I wasn’t going to end up getting anything good. I was bound to be a laughing stock.
Isabella was cutting her hand with the ceremonial knife, which was something I still thought was a bit over-the-top and disgusting, and put three drops of blood in the middle of the pentagram from above.
The golden lines of the star glowed and the circle spun around, as the elders chanted ancient words that I didn’t really know the meaning of. Light enveloped the area and when all was said and done, a unicorn pony stood in the middle of it all.
There were audible gasps all around, since unicorns were extremely rare, and Isabella squealed in excitement. I scoffed at the blond haired girl in envy. Just because her family was practically royalty, she seemed to be able to just coast through life.
“Ugh,” my best friend Nova muttered, her long black hair spilling into her face. “What a spoiled brat.”
“I know,” I agreed, crossing my arms. “I hope you get something that tops that. “Perhaps a dragonling.”
“What about you?” Nova turned to me with the raise of an eyebrow and a look of irritation in her dark eyes. “Don’t tell me you’ve already accepted that you’re not going to get anything great.”
I sighed and turned back to watch Isabella freak out about her familiar, along with the cheers of everyone else in the room. Nova should have known that it wasn’t possible for me to hope for anything different.
Throughout the generations, our families had been best friends since as far back as anyone could remember. So much so, that when it had been found out that Nova and I were going to be born on the same day, our mothers had decided to name us Luna and Nova. It was pretty cheesy now, but growing up we thought it was the coolest thing. Our parents had even convinced us that we were twins at one point, despite looking like polar opposites. My white hair and blue eyes contrasted greatly with her black coloured features.
“I’m just not going to get my hopes up,” I finally replied. “There really isn’t any point. My family has always gotten similar familiars; weak and common.”
“Well, maybe that’s because they didn’t believe they would receive otherwise,” Nova suggested. “It’s time to break that bad luck spell and believe otherwise.”
“Nova Ebony,” an elder announced. “Please make your way to the altar above the ceremonial circle.”
Nova gave me a shrug and casually made her way through the crowd and up the stone stairs, just as Isabella had. She tried to look as though she didn’t care, but I could see the nervousness in her black eyes.
Cutting her hand and dropping the blood droplets into the circle, the summoning began. I was both nervous and excited at the same time for my best friend. I hoped that out of the two of us, she would at least get something incredible.
When the light faded, all that was left was a baby bird in the middle of the star. The room was quiet and no one was really sure what was going on. An elder ran to the middle and scooped up the baby bird with a satin cloth into a box they had conjured and then there was a discussion amongst them.
Nova came slowly down the stairs from the altar, nervousness now showing on her face. In the crowd I could see her mom gripping her father’s hand, as silence gripped the entire room.
“Your friend got a little bird?” Isabella sneered, as she stood beside me with her unicorn pony. “How cute. Maybe you won’t get the worst familiar this year.”
Before I could tell her to shut her mouth, the elders pulled away from each other and the one holding the box lifted off his hood and stared at Nova in amazement.
“Nova Ebony’s familiar has been identified,” he announced. “Her familiar is a phoenix.”
The crowd broke into a loud murmur and I could here Nova’s mother scream out in excitement. Nova looked stunned and stared down at the baby bird she was now going to have to take care of.
“Looks like she got something as incredible as you,” I retorted to Isabella, making her stunned face turn into a scowl. “How do you like them apples?”
Isabella’s green eyes tore into mine as she replied, “Why don’t you save the big talk until after your summon? You’re next.”
My stomach swirled in unease, as Nova made her way over to me. She had finally regained her composure and was back to looking uninterested with the world again.
“I hope they don’t expect me to throw up in it’s mouth or something,” she joked. “Baby birds are so nasty looking.”
I smiled weakly at her, as the elders called my name, “Would Luna Verbank please make her way to the altar.”
The elder said it with boredom and when I looked into the crowds, nobody seemed to be even paying attention, except for my and Nova’s parents. My heart sank and when I was handed the ceremonial knife, I cut into my hand without caring much and dumped a few splatters of blood onto the star before healing my own hand with magic.
The star lit up bright, blinding me with its light and when everything had settled, I looked down to see…nothing.
The room eventually became quiet, as the others began to notice that I hadn’t summoned a familiar at all. The elders even seemed confused and I looked over to my parents to see the shock on their faces.
After a while, I could hear a few snickers in the audience and then everyone began to leave. I came down from the altar and was greeted by the elders. I was just glad they hadn’t ‘announced’ what my familiar had been.
“I’m sorry,” one of the female elders apologized. “The summoning went according to plan, but you seemed to have gotten nothing at all.”
“It’s alright,” I mumbled, waking away. “It’s to be expected, right?”
I met up with my parents and Nova’s family. They all looked embarrassed for me.
“Hey, don’t sweat it,” Nova tried to comfort me. “You can help me raise this bird instead. After all, you don’t have to go through the annoying task of raising a familiar by yourself. You’ll get to strengthen your other magic abilities instead! You’ll be training to be super strong, while Isabella is to busy cleaning up unicorn poop.”
I smiled at that thought and appreciated Nova’s support even though she had gotten an amazing familiar.
“I’m so sorry,” my mother apologized with tears in her bright blue eyes. “I can’t believe this has happened to you.”
“It’s not your fault,” I smiled at her. “You and dad have nothing to do with this.”
They both smiled weakly at me and Nova’s parents comforted mine on the way out of the summoning chapel. I stared at them sadly and watched everyone go. Nova stood beside me looking slightly uncomfortable.
Suddenly, I noticed that the other kids’ familiars seemed to be looking back at me, or rather, beside me. I looked down to see nothing there, but I could feel some warmth at the bottom of my right leg.
“Let’s go,” Nova urged, walking toward the doors after everyone else. “There’s no need to stay here.”
I looked back down at my right leg, where the heat was getting warmer. I still couldn’t see anything and brushed it off as my mind playing tricks on me. We headed out of the building together, but for some reason I felt like I was being followed. Perhaps I had summoned a familiar after all…